Can the DCSF provide details of the consideration given to, and advice taken, by the Secretary of State in deciding that the annual fees for both Early Years and Later Years childminders for the purposes of SI2008/1804? In particular why, since an Early Years childminder may also care for Later Years children, the fee for a Later Years only childminder should be more than four times that of an Early Years childminder.
In setting the fee levels for the registers Ministers took account of responses to the public consultation, the cost to the taxpayer of subsidising the costs of running the registers, the impact of the increases on the providers, and the different nature of the inspection regimes. These considerations are explained below together with background information.
The Childcare Act 2006 introduced two childcare registers; these came into force in September 2008 and are operated by Ofsted. The two registers are: the Early Years Register and the General Childcare Register.
Providers caring for children from birth up to the 31 August following a child’s fifth birthday are required to join the Early Years Register (EYR) and have to meet the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
The General Childcare Register (GCR) has two parts: a compulsory part, for providers of childcare for children from 1 September following their fifth birthday up to the age of eight and a voluntary part (which was introduced on 1 April 2007), for providers of childcare for children for whom compulsory registration is not required.
Typically, this type of provision includes home childcarers such as nannies or au pairs, providers who care for children aged 8 until their 18th birthday; and activity-based provision such as sports or arts and crafts clubs. A consultation on the fees for the registers ran between November 2007-February 2008.
The inspection regimes for the registers are significantly different. Inspections for providers on the GCR are less frequent and lighter touch because these providers do not need to meet the requirements to deliver the EYFS. Those providers on the EYR are inspected more frequently against the requirements of the EYFS and the register is subsidised to take account of the higher costs of these inspections.
The consultation proposed a reduction in the amount of subsidy (of the cost of running the registers) and proposed phased fee rises for the EYR from 2008, including a large increase in 2010.
The proposals for the GCR fees were to set the fee at a level to pay for the cost to Ofsted of operating the register. As a result of the responses to the consultation it was decided: not to reduce the subsidy for the EYR; to set a smaller rise in proposed increase for 2010; and to consult with providers about future fee increases after 2010.
For the GCR, as the requirements for both the voluntary and compulsory parts of the register are similar, it was decided to set the fee at the same level to reflect the full costs of registration and inspection. For childminders, the fee is £103.
The fee increases for the EYR are being phased in to take account of the new requirements on these providers to deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
In setting the fee levels, Ministers decided that the subsidy for the EYR should stay in place because while it was important that those providing care and education for younger children should be inspected thoroughly against the requirements of the EYFS, they concluded that it was not realistic to expect these providers to pay the full cost of those inspections which are much higher than the lighter touch inspection regime for the GCR.
In considering the responses to the consultation Ministers decided that the subsidy for the EYR should stay in place because it was important that those providing care and education for younger children should be inspected thoroughly against the requirements for the EYFS.
However, they concluded that it was not realistic to expect these providers to pay the full fee of the more costly EYR inspections.
Providers registered on both the EYR and the GCR must meet the higher requirements of the EYR and therefore will continue to benefit from the subsidy.
Ministers have said that they will review the level of EYR fees once the EYFS has bedded in and will signal nearer the time how they will do so.